Stock market volatility, the struggling economy, job losses, and a variety of other factors have left many individuals feeling less than totally comfortable with their personal finances these days. If you’re among them, maybe you would benefit from reassessing your situation and redefining your goals. You may find that you’re better off than you think you are. Or you may discover some changes you can make to improve your financial picture.
Tally Assets and Debts
The first step should be to understand your current financial position. For that, you need to know the approximate value of your assets — bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, real estate, business interests — as well as the amounts you currently owe to others. Your obligations might include the outstanding balances on mortgages, credit cards, and car loans. Your “net worth” is the difference between the value of your assets and your outstanding debts.
Perhaps you participate in a 401(k) or other retirement plan that allows you to select investments for your account. You may own mutual funds, an individual retirement account (IRA), stocks and bonds, or investment real estate. If you’ve been focusing on just part of the picture — your stocks or stock funds, for example — but haven’t looked at whether your investments as a whole reflect your risk tolerance and investment time frame, now may be a good time to do an overall review of your situation.
Establish some financial priorities by reflecting upon what you would like to accomplish financially and when. Be as realistic in your thinking as possible. Although choices are difficult to make, they are usually an unavoidable part of the planning process.
Do Some Tax Planning
If you just filed your tax return or are preparing to file it soon, you may want to take a break and just forget about taxes for a while. But, if you’d like to find ways to cut this year’s taxes, it may be wise to start planning early. We’re also available to help you review other aspects of your personal finances. The sooner you develop a plan, the better off you may be.